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The Paralysed Customer by Barry Schwartz – video keywords on YouTube vs. on TED Talks

Posted by annplugged on May 8, 2007

Having too many choices has a paralysing effect on decision making, according to Barry Schwartz. This is his talk at the Technology, Entertainment and Design conference, or TED Talks, he gave in 2005 (to see a modified, fresher version check out what Barry Schwartz said at Google Talks in the Googleplex), which is available on both the official TED site, and on YouTube, Google’s video sharing social networking site:

Now let’s see the texts accompanying the video recordings.

This is the description on the ted.com site:

Psychologist Barry Schwartz takes aim at a central belief of western societies: that freedom of choice leads to personal happiness. In Schwartz’s estimation, all that choice is making us miserable. We set unreasonably high expectations, question our choices before we even make them, and blame our failures entirely on ourselves. His relatable examples, from consumer products (jeans, TVs, salad dressings) to lifestyle choices (where to live, what job to take, whom and when to marry), underscore this central point: Too many choices undermine happiness.

Compare the searchability (and also the content) of the video by search engines of the following accompanying text on youtube (submitted by the TEDtalksDirector user in the Director status):

Barry Schwartz is a sociology professor at Swarthmore College and author of The Paradox of Choice. In this talk, he persuasively explains how and why the abundance of choice in modern society is actually making us miserable. (Recorded July 2005 in Oxford, UK. Duration: 20:22

Register on Technology Entertainment and DesignIt is obvious that the text accompanying the same videofilm of Barry Schwartz’s keynote talk on the TED site, in contrast to to the one on the YouTube site, is a lot more descriptive, and also richer in the more important keywords. No wonder, search spiders – eating keywords – can find its text easier, so users can reach it more conveniently. ‘Now what?’ you may think. Why is it a problem? The problem is that YouTube is commentable, interactive, place for a community whereas TED Talks on the official site is _now already_ commentable, not (yet) part of a community (right now building), no chance to send video responses etc.

It is well worth exploiting more media channels for the same video film, but there needs to be a greater care for the wording and structure of accompanying texts to improve video search. YouTube would have allowed more characters in the description, and more tags too.

ps: Professor Barry Schwartz is mentioned as a psychologist on many sites, or sociologist on other web pages. Only two choices, yet confusing… Is he both?

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Posted in Decision making, Marketing, Online, Presentation, Talks, TED Talks, Video | 2 Comments »

Barry Schwartz and The Paradox of Choice revisited

Posted by annplugged on May 7, 2007

In 2006 April Barry Schwartz, an expert psychologist in the intersection of economics and psychology gave his keynote presentation on the Paradox of Choice at Google Talks – based on his book published in 2004.

If you listen to his presentation given in 2006, you can discover how at certain points the professor of Social Theory and Social Action has revised/ refined his theory on the paradox of choice regarding online retails, especially search keyword-based marketing solutions. In short, well-designed websites can hide the overabundance of products (unlike brick and mortar stores), and are able to overcome the difficulties created by the paralysing effect of having too many choices. This way, Long Tail has been incorporated into Schwarz’s theory, I think.

Besides, it is worth checking out earlier interviews too: excerpts from an interview with Barry Schwartz made by Mark Hurst (January 2005)

Mark Hurst: What is the “paradox of choice”?
Barry Schwartz: Everyone agrees that having choice is better than not having choice. It seems evident that if choice is good, then more choice is better. The paradox is that this “obvious” truth isn’t true. It turns out that a point can be reached where, with more choice, people are worse off. People can’t ignore options – they have to pay attention to them. If they make a choice, is there another choice would have been better? There’s more effort put into making decisions, and less in enjoying them. What’s nagging is the possibility that, if they had chosen differently, they could have gotten something better…if a decision is non-reversible, you’ll make yourself feel better about the choice you made. If it’s a reversible choice, you don’t do that. And that’s not the road to happiness.
Mark Hurst: And not in retail, either.
Barry Schwartz: If you provide sales options in a retail store or website, you might think the way to attract people is to provide as many alternatives as possible. But that’s wrong. You’ll attract people, but they won’t buy as much as they would with fewer choices… For example, e-commerce sites should be designed so that the complexity is hidden, so that people who really care, or know a lot, can find their way to the complexity, and the rest of us who can’t be bothered to find it, won’t have to. That’s how software, websites, and retail stores should be designed… We can only learn by experimenting. I think that somewhere in the range of six to twelve options is what most people would be comfortable with, most of the time. But we have to do the research on actual websites, in places where people make their choices and buy.
Mark Hurst: What can customers do to avoid the paradox of choice?
Barry Schwartz: Most importantly, learn that “good enough is good enough.” It’s what I call “satisficing” in the book. You don’t need the best; probably never do. On rare occasions it’s worth struggling to find the best. But generally it makes life simpler if you settle with “good enough.” … arbitrarily limit the number of options you’ll consider. If your friend won’t choose your digital camera for you, then promise yourself that you’ll go to only two websites and then stop your research and make a decision; or you’ll buy the best choice in one store. It’s just not worth it to look in every store, every website.
comment by Karl Thomson: Of course, there are different kinds of shopping. Groceries is likely enjoyed less than the purchase of some great clothing. I, for one, _like_ the process of purchasing a car, and delight in learning as much as I can about the possible candidates… So to me, the paradox of choice is the personal one: some consumers will relish a multitude of options, while others prefer a smaller number of choices
comment by Paula Thornton: Yes, the possibilities are endless, but what are a few of the possibilities? I explained that they needed to create and price some ‘standard packages’, each with a specific goal or selling point — something the individual would be looking to accomplish/achieve.
comment by Rebecca St Martin: Most importantly, customers need to be guided about offerings based on their values and whatever parameters they bring with them. While it certainly is easier to create standard packages as samples than to lay all the options out and overwhelming the client, I believe the most satisfied customer comes from the opportunity to interact with a human being who is knowledgeable, who presents a meaningful line of questioning regarding their needs and resources and who is genuinely interested in their satisfaction… This is why the consultative salesperson in the new ecomomy of choices has not become extinct
comment by Marijka
last fall I spent HOURS researching vegetable juicers and vacuum cleaners. I just couldn’t stop, certain there was one just a little better or cheaper on the next site… Anyway, my solution to this obsessive decision-making is a digital kitchen timer! I give myself a set amount of time to reasearch and make a choice, and once the buzzer goes off I stop. Period.

Posted in Decision making, Google, Marketing, Online, Subtitles, Talks, Video | 2 Comments »